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Disaster Lawyering Project

The Disaster Lawyering Project was established in the wake of Hurricane Ida.  Loyola Law students and community organizations collaborated to find the best way to support survivors of the Hurricane in late August 2021 and provided the following services:

The Disaster Lawyering Project lead the charge for direct disaster applicant support services with weekly outreach events from September to December 2021. The DLP worked with local community organizations engaged volunteers from the Loyola Law School, attorneys in private practice, volunteers from other aid organizations and provided Volunteer Assistance Training to help our volunteers best assist disaster survivors. The DLP assisted persons in the application for FEMA disaster assistance; writing appeals for FEMA assistance; and supplementing FEMA Grants and/or SBA Disaster Loan applications. 

The Loyola Law Clinic shared information about services available from FEMA by referral to local Disaster Recovery Centers, the Temporary Shelter Assistance program, and local City of New Orleans assistance programs (such as cooling centers, charging stations, etc). The New Orleans Library (multiple branches; but most commonly the main branch at Loyola Avenue) offered free fax services for survivors to use to contact FEMA to supplement their applications for assistance as well. 

Loyola Law Clinic also worked with our partners at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services for the October 29, 2021 NOLA Disaster Legal Clinic, in coordination with multiple assistance organizations. Our volunteers assisted persons with their FEMA disaster assistance questions and provided advocacy support to these survivors.

The Loyola Law Clinic shifted gears into long-term advocacy for our clients who survived Hurricane Ida in order to achieve the maximum possible award based on the client’s disaster needs. We successfully advocated for the FEMA grant of funds for roof replacement for one client and have pending outcomes for other cases. 

The Disaster Lawyering Project team worked closely with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services to advocate for comprehensive changes that would enable the most vulnerable populations to have better access to FEMA disaster assistance. We have worked with Regional FEMA Representatives and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to establish locally-situated solutions as well as advocate for systemic changes at the national level. 

The DLP collaborated with Louisiana Appleseed, a local non-profit organization that promotes systemic change that assists vulnerable populations, to draft and submit a public Comment on the FEMA Action: Agency Information Collection Activities: Proposed Collection; Comment Request; Generic Clearance for Civil Rights and Equity,  87 Fed. Reg. 3836, 3836-37 FEMA, Department of Homeland Security (Jan. 28, 2022). This comment is available to review by selecting  “Read the ## public comments” at the top-right corner of the page at: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/01/25/2022-01314/agency-information-collection-activities-proposed-collection-comment-request-generic-clearance-for. The purpose of the comment was to respond to FEMA’s request for comment on a proposed action to begin the collection of demographic information upon registration for FEMA assistance. We support this collection of data and suggest that additional data collection would also be beneficial in order for the Agency to report on their own compliance with the Stafford Act, The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and other civil rights duties. The collection of this information would also be beneficial in order for the Agency to identify systemic issues with disbursement of disaster assistance that disproportionately affects persons of differing economic status, persons with disabilities, persons of different racial and ethnic groups, women, and other persons who share protected class status under the Stafford Act. The DLP has submitted this comment to be considered in the adoption of the collection of demographic information as proposed by the Agency Action, and for this comment to become a part of the public record in notice-and-comment period of this Agency action.

The DLP has also submitted multiple requests for information, clarification, and official Freedom of Information Act request to FEMA in order to expand upon the types of data collected by the agency and find gaps in publicly-available data about how disaster grant applications are processed and how disaster grants are awarded.  The DLP will share the responses to these requests with the public on our website and also with other non-profit advocacy organizations.